2021 Washington Legislature, Day 3 of 105
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OLYMPIA, Jan. 13, 2021 — Gov. Jay Inslee grabs the spotlight on the session’s third day.
The Democrat is getting sworn in for a third term, joining an elite club in Washington. Only Dan Evans and Arthur B. Langlie, both Republicans, ever accomplished the feat, and only Evans served them consecutively before Inslee.
At noon, Inslee will deliver his inaugural address to a virtual joint session of the Legislature. Actually, it will be on video. No Zoom-bombing opportunity.
He’s pushing for a capital gains tax, carbon pricing scheme and low carbon fuel standard — each of which have lapsed in prior Democrat-controlled legislatures. He’s also pushing for a new tax on health insurance policies, a suite of policing reforms, higher weekly benefits for the unemployed, greater spending on health care, human services and public schools, and a shift of hundreds of millions of dollars from highway projects to culvert replacement.
If successful, pretty much every appendage of state government will increase in size and reach. Except maybe the Department of Corrections. A change he seeks in sentencing policies could help thousands of inmates get out sooner from state prisons.
When asked in December why, in the midst of the pandemic, he’s pushing such an ambitious agenda, Inslee replied: “This is not a moment for timidity.”
And why not go for it. This year’s Legislature is the most progressives since he arrived in 2013.
Inslee is pretty much a lame-duck, with a fourth term unlikely. Who know if he’ll actually finish this term. He could join the Biden administration at some point. Really, it’s not unreasonable to view 2021 as a now or never proposition.
Fighting begins on two of Inslee’s proposals Thursday.
At 1:30 p.m., the House Environment and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1091 to establish a clean fuel standard. It will get through this panel, then the House and into the Senate Transportation Committee, where it’s stalled before.
At 4 p.m., the Senate Ways and Means Committee takes up a capital gains tax with a hearing on Senate Bill 5096. Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, sponsored the bill, which is request legislation from Inslee.
Robinson, who moved from the House to the Senate this year, has been willing to take on tough sells before — and taken her lumps. She pushed legislation to tie the size of Boeing’s tax break to the size of its workforce. She led negotiations with Republicans and businesses to create the state’s Paid Family Leave program. She’s been in the middle of difficult budget talks the past few years.
She’s a good choice for a governor who, in spite of winning three terms, continues to struggle on his own to sway fellow Democrats to do what he wants.
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Sara Gentzler (McClatchy) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)